I cherish those occasions in my life when I have been deeply moved by the awareness of the Holy Spirit bursting through all our cowardice and equivocation, and leading us into new uplands of truth, light and freedom. Two such occasions stand out. One was in 1992, when the General Synod of the Church of England passed the legislation enabling the ordination of women to the priesthood. I happened to be at home, enjoying a rare sabbatical, and heard the announcement on the radio. It was not only the significance of the measure that struck me, but the sensitive, prayerful way in which it was announced, and the absence of triumphalism.
The second occasion was yesterday, with the publication of the Saville report into the shootings in Derry in 1972. Again, it was a combination of the importance of what was happening, and the manner in which it was announced. I am not a fan of the Conservatives, but I unreservedly salute David Cameron for the courage and honesty with which he laid before a silent Commons the full implications of the report, and made a clear and unequivocal apology. It is rare to be able to say that about any politician. A tip of the hat, too, to Tony Blair, for whom I usually have even less time, for I’m convinced that if Blair had not promised to hold a judicial enquiry in 1998, there would have been no Peace Process.
My prayer now is that all those who have lived for 38 years with the consequences of that terrible day, both the families of those killed or wounded, and those who have carried the burden of guilt for unlawful acts, state-sanctioned or otherwise, will at last find peace and healing, and that, as on the earlier occasion, there will be no triumphalism or vindictiveness.